Knights On Ice’s 2019-20 preseason Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series ranks the top 25 players under the age of 25 currently in Vegas’ system. Six Knights On Ice writers created their own Top 25 Under 25 ballots. Each individual writer’s ballot was then used to generate a composite score that forms the final ballot.
The next highlighted player in the Golden Knights Top 25 Under 25 series is center Jake Leschyshyn, who comes in at No. 18 on the list. Leschyshyn was selected in the second round (No. 62 overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, with a pick that came from the Pittsburgh Penguins via the Carolina Hurricanes.
Leschyshyn, son of Stanley Cup winning defenseman Curtis Leschyshyn, followed Cody Glass, Nick Suzuki, Erik Brannstrom and Nicolas Hague in a blue chip-loaded draft haul for Vegas. Leschyshyn’s stock fell considerably prior to the draft — TSN’s Bob McKenzie had him 42nd in his midseason rankings, and Central Scouting had him pegged 31st among North American skaters in the same timeframe — thanks to a knee injury, that per our friends at SinBin.vegas, he does not appear happy to still discuss.
No. 18: Jake Leschyshyn
Age: 20 (March 10, 1999)
Size: 5-foot-11, 190 pounds
Leschyshyn’s aforementioned knee injury appeared to hold him back somewhat in the 2017-18 campaign, as he tallied just 40 points in 64 games (0.62 points per game) on the heels of an injury-shortened age-17 season in which he notched 0.85 PPG and displayed greater discipline. The 20-year-old bounced back with a stellar 2018-19 season, split between the Western Hockey League’s Regina Pats (where he served as captain) and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, totaling 81 points (40 goals, 41 assists), good for 13th in the WHL.
Leschyshyn got hot as the season went on, culminating in a 10-point showing in the playoffs, outpacing notable names Dylan Cozens, Jordy Bellerive and Calen Addison to lead the Hurricanes.
The young forward was not short on highlights from the past season, and a few notable clips can be seen below:
There is a lot to like. This package illustrated just how Leschyshyn ended up with 40 goals and 41 assists, as his playmaking and release were simply light years beyond most of his WHL counterparts. The stick handling on display here certainly cuts it in major junior, but may not at higher levels. We are, after all, judging him in the context of his peers, over 90 percent of whom will never see NHL ice. Then again, this is but a sliver of his overall output last year, but the fact of the matter is that Leschyshyn’s game as it stands now is far from complete.
In fact, few Golden Knights prospects have slipped as much in their perceptions among talent evaluators and journalists as Leschyshyn did. From his recent rundown of the Golden Knights farm system, the Athletic’s Corey Pronman believes that, although Leschyshyn is a “well-rounded player,” that his upside is limited due to a relative lack of high-end skill, and that he is unlikely to drive offense. Pronman ultimately rated Leschyshyn 19th — which is close to our take, thereby validating Pronman’s utility — a drop from 13th a year prior.
Pronman’s fellow Athletic writer Jesse Granger rated Leschyshyn 15th in the organization, albeit with nine of the players above him having been drafted later than his 62nd overall slot (including those who went undrafted). Granger did note, though, that despite underwhelming in 2017-18, Leschyshyn redeemed himself in the following campaign.
The upcoming season is critical for Leschyshyn. A full season against AHL competition will help the Vegas decision makers understand where the Raleigh, NC native fits into the organizational depth chart as well as the future outlook of the Golden Knights. Data seen above from Corsica’s Emmanuel Perry paint a complex picture of Leschyshyn, giving him a lower likelihood of making than NHL than a player like Keegan Kolesar. However, the data also suggest that if he does indeed make the big leagues, that he might be a high-value performer.
Translating minor league success into NHL playing time is often a tricky venture, but an easy rule of thumb is for 19-21 year old forwards, about 0.7 PPG is an encouraging sign, a number which jumps to 1.0 PPG at age 22 and above. Some of his offensive output will be entirely in his hands, and some will be the result of ice time decisions, but anything below half a point per game this season will have to be seen as disappointing.
This upcoming season will still just be Leschyshyn’s age-20 campaign, and some growing pains are bound to occur. He appeared in just five games with the Chicago Wolves this past year, and will get a greater taste for a higher level of competition and markedly greater physicality in a full season in the AHL. How he handles that will likely dictate whether or not he becomes an important piece of the Golden Knight family.
Previously in Vegas Golden Knights Preseason 2019 Top 25 Under 25: